• Lights at UCLA are often left on with nobody in the room which drains significant energy
  • You can hurt yourself getting to and from bed when it's dark
  • Existing smart switches in dorm rooms are not very reliable (ex: turn off while you're still in the room)
  • Current solutions are costly, require special equipment and are difficult to maintain

What it does

  • Servos toggle the light switch
  • Control over wifi, through physical buttons, and intelligently through environmental sensors
  • Uses magnets to easily attach directly on top of existing light switch

How we built it

  • Arduino nano with an ESP8266
  • Servo actuated switches
  • 3D printed case
  • Color sensor (TCS34725) for ambient light and PIR sensor for motion detection

Challenges we ran into

  • Online documentation for the ESP8266 is not very good (programming, communication)
  • Power consumption—it's important to minimize power consumption when running off a battery


  • Minimize energy use by turning off lights when nobody is present
  • Keep lights off it it detects that the room is already bright enough without a light
  • Versatile technology can be applied to controlling appliances

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Getting ESP8266 to work
  • Simplistic and sturdy design of case
  • Extremely easy to implement
  • Aesthetic UI
  • Lots of potential for future improvements and expansion (Machine learning, smaller footprint, better battery life, use with appliances)

What we learned

  • There are many factors to take into consideration when determining what actions to take to design any product
  • Delegation is key—each member focused on one specific task and that worked extremely well

What's next for Retro Switch

  • Apply machine learning to allow system to recognize different situations
  • Custom PCB
  • Decrease power consumption to increase lifespan (current lifespan is just under 3 hours with a 9 Volt Battery)
  • Apply to other objects (ex: control a fan—with temperature sensor instead of ambient light; smart power strip)



arduino, autodesk-fusion-360, c++, css, esp8266, html, i2c, pir-sensor, serial-communication, servo, tcs34725

Devpost Software Identifier